The Salem News reported that a Salem District Court Judge dismissed one criminal count of threats to commit a crime against a Marblehead police officer, forty-one year old Christopher Adkerson of Lynn. Apparently, a distraught Adkerson told his wife that he was going to kill himself and that he would take them too. However, when his estranged wife questioned who he was referring to, Adkerson never specified anyone.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 275 section 2 and Massachusetts decisional law provides that in order to be convicted for “threats” to commit a crime a defendant must have both the intention and the ability to carry out a threat and the circumstances must justify apprehension on the part of the recipient of the threat. Furthermore, the recipient of a threat does not have to be the victim of the threatened crime. For example, in the recent case of Commonwealth v. Hamilton,, 459 Mass. 422 (20110) the Supreme Judicial Court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict a defendant for threats to commit a crime when the defendant threatened a probation officer’s daughter because there was evidence that the defendant intended that the threat be forwarded to the officer’s young daughter through the probation officer. A defendant who blocked the path of a car, glared at its occupants, addressed the individual’s with closed fists stating that he would “wipe the grin” off the victim’s face and stopped his car twice close to victim and looking at the victim and his son with a “menacing grin” was appropriately convicted for criminal harassment.
In the Adkersen case, the judge held that Adkersen’s threat was not directed at a specific victim and therefore, the conduct was not conduct forbidden by the statute. According to the News, Adkerson’s conduct had recently been “erratic” however, his wife claimed that he had never been physical with her or their daughter.
Another crime that is often charged in conjunction with threats to commit a crime is criminal harassment. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 43 A provides that anyone who “willfully and maliciously” directs conduct at a specific person over a period of time establishing a pattern that seriously alarms that person and the conduct causes a reasonable person to suffer “substantial emotional distress” can be punished for up to two and one half years in jail or by a one-thousand dollar fine or both. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that three or more incidents is required in order to prove a pattern of harassment. Examples of conduct that would constitute criminal harassment include the posting of fliers advertising concert tickets and cars for sale that listed the complainant’s phone number and hang up calls. The “substantial” distress must be more than minor or passing anxiety.